Bill Bryson wrote a great book about growing up in the 1950’s, called The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid. I read it and realized he and I have a couple of things in common.
We both lived in towns with great main streets. We both wore Davy Crockett coonskin hats, we practiced our quick draw like Roy Rogers, delivered newspapers, and looked at our fathers’ dirty magazines which we found hidden in the back of closets.
Both our dads were creative, his being a sports writer, and mine a sign painter, but his dad got to go to baseball games in New York and Chicago, and my dad stayed home and painted letters on store windows.
Bill almost saw a naked girl once when he was about eight years old while playing doctor, but she backed out because she had a crush on him. I made sure I didn’t miss my chance because all I had to do was stand on my bike outside the window of the women’s change room at Couchiching beach and gaze in at the wonders of the world. I was doing great until one of my classmates, Carol Montgomery, saw me and screamed blue murder. Pretty sure I rode away with a smile on my face, though.
Bill’s big job back then was his paper route, and it was mine too. I won a red transistor radio once for getting the most new customers, and would tie it to my bike and listen to rock and roll as I made my rounds. It was the beginning of the end of my world as I knew it, because as soon as my ears made contact with Chuck Berry and the rest of those boys down south, everything changed. Music was sure better than school, and it gave me excellent ideas about girls. It couldn’t have been good for me. I blame my red radio for all the mistakes I’ve ever made.
Like Bill, we used to go to movie matinees and whip popcorn boxes like deadly Frisbees at the the screen and around the room. It was one of life’s great pleasures. If you’ve ever fired off a popcorn box missile and clunked some guy in the head who was making out with his girlfriend, you know what I mean.
Life then seemed to have only a few problems, like hoping the honourable defender of women in change rooms, Carol Montgomery, didn’t squeal on me. Or trying to decide between spending money on pinball or at the new Dairy Queen which had just opened up around the corner. Or straining to listen in school on my new transistor radio, without the teacher hearing, to World Series games which were played during the day while we were stuck struggling with remembering the route Columbus took when he left Spain.
Back then, Greenland wasn’t melting, the NHL only had six teams, and doctors recommended smoking for enjoyment and relaxation.
It was a good time to be young. Although I would’ve become a much better prson later in life if it wasn’t for that darn red transistor radio.